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Canaries in the coal mine: why birds can tell us so much about the health of Earth

By Stuart Butchart, Chief Scientist, BirdLife International & Honorary Research Fellow, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge
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Following a deadly explosion in a Welsh coal mine in 1896, an engineer called John Haldane invented a type of bird cage that allowed canaries to accompany miners into the depths. The small songbirds are much more sensitive than humans to the deadly carbon monoxide gas found underground.

A sudden halt to their singing would warn workers to evacuate the pit – and rescue the canary by closing its cage door and opening a valve to pump oxygen inside. Remarkably, it was only in 1986 that canaries were relievedThe Conversation

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